Notre Dame, IN – Meme Jackson scored 18 points, but it was not enough as No. 5/5 Notre Dame overcame a 23-point deficit to hand No. 6/7 Tennessee its second loss of the season, 84-70, on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.
After taking a 60-50 lead into the fourth quarter, the Lady Vols (16-2, 4-1 SEC) fell into an offensive slump, and were outscored 34-10 to close the game. The Fighting Irish (17-2, 5-1 ACC) were efficient throughout the second half, shooting 66 percent from 3-point range and committing just three turnovers.
Arike Ogunbowale had a strong offensive performance for Notre Dame, leading the way with 27 points and eight rebounds. Marina Mabrey added 20 points, including three 3-pointers in the second half, as well as a game-high seven assists.
Tennessee did feature a balanced scoring effort in the loss, with all five starters reaching double figures. Jaime Nared recorded 14 points and six boards, while Mercedes Russell, Rennia Davis, and Evina Westbrook netted 12 each.
After the Irish jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the opening stages of the first quarter, Tennessee asserted itself on both ends, going on a 21-2 run over the next six minutes to grab a commanding early advantage. The Lady Vols also controlled the glass throughout the period, out-rebounding Notre Dame 14-5. UT’s Russell and Davis recorded six points apiece to guide their team to a 17-point lead going into the second quarter.
The Lady Vols picked up right where they left off in the second stanza, as a Jackson 3-pointer on the first possession put Tennessee ahead by 20 for the first time. After trading baskets over the following minutes, the fifth-ranked Irish began to fight back towards the end of the quarter, yielding just one UT field goal in its last eight attempts. Notre Dame closed out the final five minutes of the half on a 10-0 run that was highlighted by two 3-pointers from Ogunbowale to cut the Big Orange lead to 39-27 going into the break. Jackson paced the Lady Vols during the first half with nine points.
The third quarter proved to be a back-and-forth battle highlighted by great offense from both teams. After keeping pace for six minutes, the Irish were able to scrap their way back into the game via a 9-1 run that trimmed the deficit to 10. Forward Jessica Shepard scored six points in the quarter on 3-for-3 shooting to help swing momentum back to Notre Dame. After a Jackie Young jumper made it 57-50 with under 30 seconds left in the quarter, UT was in need of an answer. Westbrook delivered just that, knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to regain the 10-point Lady Vols advantage heading into the final period.
In the fourth quarter Tennessee was unable to slow Notre Dame, as the Irish dominated on both ends en route to outscore the Lady Vols, 34-10. An Ogunbowale free throw tied the game at 65 with just under six minutes remaining, and 30 seconds later, a Mabrey 3-pointer from the corner gave Notre Dame its first lead since the game’s opening minutes. The Irish did not look back the rest of the way, closing out the final five minutes on a 16-5 run. Tennessee’s 10-point total was the fewest it recorded in a fourth quarter this season.
Ogunbowale netted 13 points in the final stanza for Notre Dame. The Irish had their way in the lane offensively for the majority of the game, as they scored 46 points in the paint on the night. Notre Dame was also a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line.